Envisaged Japan Security Clearance Law May Come with 5-year Prison Term for Data Leaks

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

The government is eyeing a prison term of up to five years for individuals with security clearance who leak information, according to the details of a draft bill that establishes a system that grants those in the public and private sectors access to sensitive information crucial to the nation’s economic security.

The bill stipulates what is classified as “important information for national economic security,” which is government-held intelligence that could hinder national security if leaked. The bill would establish a new law on the protection and utilization of such important information.

As well, the bill stresses the need for protecting such data, citing, “the increasing significance of preventing acts harmful to the security of the nation and its people that are conducted in connection with economic activities.”

Infrastructure, with such as railroads and water supply in mind, is cited by the bill as the “foundation of economic activities” and it lists what should be classified as important information in this field under the envisaged law. The government is likely keeping in mind plans and research to protect against foreign cyber-attacks.

Data in the field of innovative technology is also subject to what is classified as important information. Information on artificial intelligence is thought to fall under this category.

Having security clearance gives private companies an advantage in participating in international joint research in the aforementioned areas.

Data classified as important information will remain so for five years. The status can be renewed every five years for up to 30 years, with the possibility of further extension upon approval by the Cabinet.

Government officials and employees of private companies are given the clear to access classified important information once their criminal and disciplinary records, along with their personal history on handling information, are screened by the government, according to the bill.

Screening will be conducted with the consent of each individual, with security clearance remaining valid for 10 years.

Should an individual with security clearance leak any information, they will face a prison term of up to five years or a fine of up to ¥5 million, or both.

The bill also stipulated that “there should not be any unjustified infringement on the fundamental human rights of the people and that due consideration must be given to freedom of the press or news coverage.”